Elizabeth's Women: Friends, Rivals, and Foes Who Shaped the Virgin Queen
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A source of endless fascination and speculation, the subject of countless biographies, novels, and films, Elizabeth I is now considered from a thrilling new angle by the brilliant young historian Tracy Borman. So often viewed in her relationships with men, the Virgin Queen is portrayed here as the product of women—the mother she lost so tragically, the female subjects who worshipped her, and the peers and intimates who loved, raised, challenged, and sometimes opposed her.
In vivid detail, Borman presents Elizabeth’s bewitching mother, Anne Boleyn, eager to nurture her new child, only to see her taken away and her own life destroyed by damning allegations—which taught Elizabeth never to mix politics and love. Kat Astley, the governess who attended and taught Elizabeth for almost thirty years, invited disaster by encouraging her charge into a dangerous liaison after Henry VIII’s death. Mary Tudor—“Bloody Mary”—envied her younger sister’s popularity and threatened to destroy her altogether. And animosity drove Elizabeth and her cousin Mary Queen of Scots into an intense thirty-year rivalry that could end only in death.
Elizabeth’s Women contains more than an indelible cast of characters. It is an unprecedented account of how the public posture of femininity figured into the English court, the meaning of costume and display, the power of fecundity and flirtation, and how Elizabeth herself—long viewed as the embodiment of feminism—shared popular views of female inferiority and scorned and schemed against her underlings’ marriages and pregnancies.
Brilliantly researched and elegantly written, Elizabeth’s Women is a unique take on history’s most captivating queen and the dazzling court that surrounded her.
beautiful Scottish cousin, the woman of whom she was already intensely jealous? And yet she had suggested that the three of them live together at the English court, in what one historian describes as “a virtual ménage à trois.”93 Although Elizabeth may have taken the pragmatic view that it would be better to have a man loyal to herself on the Scottish throne than a Catholic potentate, given her personal antipathy toward Mary, it seems more likely that her promotion of Robert Dudley as a suitable
waters of international politics. And by refusing to act precipitately against Mary, Queen of Scots, she was rewarded when that same woman was delivered into her clutches after fleeing from Scotland. Few, if any, of her male contemporaries seemed to realize that this was a deliberate ploy. “It is very troublesome to negotiate with this woman, as she is naturally changeable,” complained the Count de Feria.15 More positively, Elizabeth was capable of showing a very tender kindness and sympathy for
Bess had entered the Queen’s service as a gentlewoman of the privy chamber in 1584, at the age of nineteen. The Throckmorton family had long been connected to the court, although not always to their advantage. Bess’s mother, Anne, had been imprisoned with Lady Jane Grey and had suffered mental torture from witnessing her fate. Her father, Sir Nicholas Throckmorton, had had a checkered relationship with the Tudors. Under Henry VIII he had been appointed to the household of his cousin, Katherine
Elizabeth was too preoccupied with her new life at Chelsea to give much thought to her elder sister. She was clearly thriving under her stepmother’s care, and the first few months that she spent in her household were the happiest and most stable she had known since that first summer with Katherine during the latter’s regency in 1544. Life was full of stimulation and excitement as she pursued her studies with one of England’s finest scholars and, during her leisure hours, enjoyed the lively
reached her ears of a defamatory tract that had been published on the Continent, condemning Anne as a heretical whore. Elizabeth’s ambassador in France, Nicholas Throckmorton, reported to William Cecil that one Gabriel de Sacconay had “devised” and printed the work, “wherein he has spoken most irreverently of the Queen’s mother.” Anne Boleyn was denounced as a “Jezebel” and compared to the “heathen wives of Solomon” for persuading Henry VIII to turn his back on the “true” Church of Rome. Their